Release Date: Jan 12, 2010
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
If you're lucky, you might already know this guy as Final Fantasy. His reasons for dropping that name are probably boring and copyright-related, but still: The name change seems healthy on whole other extra-legal levels. I've never known anyone not to be wowed by Final Fantasy's live show, and Final Fantasy's live show is just Owen Pallett: the guy himself, a violin, and a loop pedal.
With hindsight, the demise of Final Fantasy was entirely predictable. Sure, the official cause of death was some mumbled notice about wanting to avoid confusion when Heartland became the first FF release to hit Japan, lest the locals start using copies as chocobo lures. But really, in recent years the name of the string arranger Owen Pallett has become vastly more recognisable than his recording artist alias.
Toronto-based singer/songwriter/composer/violinist Owen Pallett’s Final Fantasy project officially ended its public affair with the beloved Japanese video game of the same name (he has promised to release subsequent albums under his legal name) with Heartland, a 12-song conceptual piece concerning “a young, ultra-violent farmer named Lewis set in the imaginary landscape of Spectrum. ” To be fair, Pallett’s last release, the superb He Poos Clouds was an “an eight-song cycle about the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons” adorned with a cover that included a hand-drawn rendering of the action described in the title. As with all of his works, Heartland wears its absurd premise high and proud, allowing its creator the freedom to explore the entire spectrum of human emotion without ever succumbing to hipster irony.
Owen Pallett would love to have us believe that he decided to stop calling his solo project "Final Fantasy" in order to distinguish himself from the popular video-game series that gave him the name. There's certainly truth to that. With Pallett's popularity steadily rising, a cease-and-desist order had to be just around the bend. And fans of the series probably got more than they bargained for in taking home one of his records thinking it contained music from the games.
“This place is a narrative mess”, Owen Pallett warns us early on in the proceedings of Heartland, his seemingly forever-in-the-works third full-length album. Call it a pre-emptive strike against listeners hoping to map an easy path through the murky thicket of the album’s ostensible plot, billed as a heated one-sided dialogue between Lewis, an “ultra-violent young farmer” in the mythical land of Spectrum and the story’s godlike creator, named, likely without coincidence, Owen. Yes, Heartland is a dreaded “concept” album, and a worryingly meta one at that, but Pallett is letting us, and himself, off the hook from the very start by having the wit to acknowledge the sheer goofy pomposity of such things.
A year in the making, Owen Pallett emerges with a rock opera You couldn’t invent a musical project with a bigger dweeb pedigree than one whose previous work includes albums based on the “eight schools of magic codified by Dungeons & Dragons,” or a new work “concerning a young ultra-violent farmer named Lewis and a supreme deity named Owen. ” And yet, that’s just what Toronto composer and Polaris Music Prize-winner Owen Pallett—the man behind solo string project Final Fantasy (its name a nod to the popular video game series)—does on Heartland. The record is a 46-minute, 12-track piece for looped violin and voice that owes as much to Brian Eno’s ambient instrumental work, Tubular Bells and Andrew Bird’s whistled mini-symphonies as it does the more formal terrain of orchestral composition.
Owen Pallett's second album as Final Fantasy divided listeners, not because of its content - a song cycle about Dungeons & Dragons for string quartets - but with its title. There were those who insisted that grown-ups should be neither making nor listening to a record with the title He Poos Clouds. His third doesn't offer the same titular challenges, but doesn't skimp on apparently offputting context: here he is joined by New York composer Nico Muhly and the Czech Symphony Orchestra for a concept album about a farmer called Lewis.
Like Peter and the Wolf re-imagined by an electronic-leaning Neil Hannon. Andy Fyfe 2010 Canadian Owen Pallett has been a busy beaver. As a violinist for hire he’s been string arranger of choice for Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, Beirut and Arctic Monkey Alex Turner’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets, while also releasing low-key, whimsical solo albums as Final Fantasy.